Prejudices About Trial Lawyers and more...



Prejudices About Trial Lawyers

(Book Excerpt: A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms)

Many legal thrillers focus on the dynamics of trial lawyers battling it out before and during a courtroom trial. Therefore, we thought it would be interesting to briefly talk about some popular prejudices against trial attorneys. If you’re writing a trial lawyer character, perhaps he or she confronts one of these prejudices from clients, jurors, even social acquaintances.

What Is a Trial Lawyer?

Some lawyers are known to be “trial attorneys,” meaning they are skilled at conducting courtroom litigation in their areas of specialization. For example, Shaun, the co-author of this book, is a trial attorney who specializes in criminal defense, business litigation and personal injury. Writing a story featuring a trial lawyer sets up some rich possibilities for dramatic courtroom scenes.

Outside the courtroom, however, trial lawyers have many other responsibilities that aren’t always as glamorous as books and film often portray. A trial lawyer often spends days reviewing files, interviewing witnesses, discussing cases with his/her clients, filing documents with the court. Each of these processes can take weeks or months as trial attorneys prepare for trial — later in this book, we go into more detail about what takes place throughout the pretrial phase and trial itself.

Now let’s look at some urban legends about trial lawyers.

They Don’t Have Souls

Below is a telling quote from the acclaimed attorney Gerry Spence, who has tried and won many nationally known cases, about one dark prejudice:

“Today the trial lawyer could be as pure and honest as Jesus in a pin-striped suit — and still the jurors will see him through jaundiced spectacles. Or the woman, as trial lawyer, could be Mother Teresa in a conservative business dress — dark worsted wool, a small string of no-nonsense pearls at her throat, a tiny gold cross pinned at her lapel, her face that of a saint — and still the jurors would undress her to her soul to see if, indeed, she has one. Suspicion. Worse. A thin fog of hate surrounds all lawyers for the people, these warriors for the people’s justice.” -Gerry Spence, American trial lawyer who has never lost a criminal case

So how does your fictional attorney deal with this? Does she take on a false bravado to compensate? Does he ignore it, or enter most situations (whether personal or professional) with an irritating bluster? Or, like Gerry Spence, perhaps it encourages him to reach out, be human and correct the misconception when opportunities arise. Of course, the last thing you want is a saint for a trial attorney, so such a Gerry Spence-like character would need an admirable flaw or two in his shining-knight characterization.

They’re Aggressive

Another popular misconception is that all trial attorneys are “aggressive.” Here’s a definition of the word aggressive: Inclined to behave in an actively hostile fashion.

It’s a loaded word, one many attorneys love to use in their  ads, as though an attorney behaving like a pit bull on crack equates to sure wins for a client.

Check out ads yourself to see how attorneys love this word. For example, we recently looked on the back of a fat telephone book (they still exist, you know) — and surprise! There’s a full-page ad where the attorney promises “Aggressive Representation.” We flipped to the yellow pages under Attorneys and saw these words in multiple ads: “Affordable and Aggressive.” We also saw several ads of a lawyer smiling next to the words “TOUGH and AGGRESSIVE Lawyer” (capitalized just as it is in the ad).

Aggression in the Courtroom

With the popularity of the word aggressive in lawyers’ ads, does that mean an attorney must be aggressive to be a winner in the courtroom? According to a local respected trial defense attorney, the answer is no. Below is his take on the term:

“In most cases, it simply is better not to be overly aggressive either in pre-trial matters, or at trial. Much of criminal law practice before trial consists of careful investigation and skillful negotiation. This is no place for an attorney to behave aggressively or unreasonably, at least not if they know what they are doing! Even at trial, most experienced trial lawyers know that being aggressive and unfriendly is likely to turn off the jury and everyone else.

While there certainly are situations that call for an aggressive cross-examination of an accuser or other witness, an experienced trial attorney knows that under most circumstances it is better to appear to the jury as a professional and reasonable defense attorney because that makes it much more likely that they will adopt the defense’s version of events and acquit their client. Usually if the jury doesn’t like the attorney, it’s bad news for the client. In fact most prosecutors want obnoxious, aggressive defense attorneys because they know the jury will not like them or their client. It’s a tough lesson to learn for the first time after your trial is over.”

~ End of Excerpt ~

A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins. Available exclusively on Amazon.

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Twitter Hashtags for Lawyers 101

KEEP CALM AND USE HASHTAGS Poster

Twitter As Search Engine

When I first became a Twitter user several years ago, I had no idea what a hashtag was. When my wife, who’s been using Twitter for five years, asked what hashtags I was using to help spread the word about my law practice, I laughed. Hashtags? Sounded like something between a short-order cook and a childhood game.

But when she said that Twitter had evolved into a powerful real-time search engine with millions of search queries each day (that number has increased to over two billion daily), and that hashtags were a means of conducting these searches, like for finding a lawyer who specialized in DUIs in our city, I decided hashtags were noble social media creatures.

Hashtag Format

A hashtag is the # character followed by a word or term; for example, #Colorado marks a tweet as relevant to the state Colorado. Hashtags can also be combined words; for example, #ColoradoCrime would refer to a crime (or subject relevant to crime) in the state. Sometimes people use several hashtags, such as #Colorado #Lawyer.

A few guidelines:

  • Twitter doesn’t allow punctuation in hashtags. 
  • The more specific the topic, the better.
  • Don’t overuse them in a single tweet (some people say use no more than three — too many are distracting and/or annoying)

Finding or Tagging Topics

People conduct over 2 billion searches on Twitter each day

Hashtags are useful for both finding topics as well as tagging a topic in your tweet so others can more easily find it. By the way, I just did a search on Twitter for #ColoradoCrime and it’s not a popular tweet — the most recent tweet tagged with #ColoradoCrime was nine months old.  So if you were interested in finding topics related to current crimes in Colorado, that wouldn’t be a useful hashtag. However, when I ran a search on #Colorado #Crime, dozens of tweets related to crimes in Colorado displayed, with the most recent dated a few days ago.

Within Twitter, you can search for a hashtag in the search field at the top of the Twitter screen, or by clicking a hashtag within a tweet. You can also run a search on a hashtag from your browser — results from both Twitter and Facebook will display (Facebook also uses hashtags).

Now let’s look at some useful hashtags for lawyers.

Common Legal Hashtags

Here are a few hashtags that relate to the legal world in general, from lawyers to courts: #legal #lawyer #law #lawsuit

For example, if you’re interested in attracting a broad readership for a tweet (such as for a blog post on a general legal topic), add the hashtag #legal or #law. When I post a new blog article, I’ll often add the hashtags #legal #blog

Legal Hashtags by Practice

Here’s a sampling of hashtags for different law specializations: #DUI, #personalinjury, #divorce, #familylaw, #patent, #bankruptcy, #criminaldefense

For example, a defense lawyer in Houston might add the hashtags #criminaldefense #Houston to a tweet that markets his/her practice.

Good Idea Not To…

Use legal jargon in hashtags (or anywhere within the tweet, actually). Jargon is great for legal eagles like lawyers, judges and paralegals, but jargon can easily alienate others, like potential clients.

Self-promote too often. I’ve heard that one self-promotion tweet per ten tweets is a good guideline.

Additional Twitter Articles for Lawyers

Lawyers guide to Twitter language and acronyms (Real Lawyers Have Blogs)

Hashtags in Law Firm Social Media Marketing Benefit Attorneys (LawMarketing.com)

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com), or one of the legal blogs listed on the right side of the screen under Blogroll, to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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Tips for Being a Happy Lawyer. Seriously.

I like to think  that for the most part I’m a pretty easy-going guy with a sense of humor, but even I have to admit that this profession, especially for those of us practicing criminal defense, can at times be filled with difficult issues and heart-wrenching life stories.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks for getting my attitude back on the positive track. Not saying I’ve learned the Zen secret of eternal lawyer-happiness, but for what it’s worth, here’s my three cents on the topic.

Five Tips for Being a Happier Lawyer

Tip #1: Get some perspective. A client drops you, a judge snaps at you, you didn’t make partner, you lost a case you poured your heart into…guess what? It happens to every lawyer…well, maybe not Gerry Spence, who’s never lost a criminal case…but it happens to everyone else. So step back and look at the big picture. It’s not just about you, really.

Tip #2: Appreciate the good things in your life. Sometimes a lawyer’s world gets jam-packed with problems and issues and difficult personalities and…you get the picture. Especially at those times, take a moment and remember what’s good in your life. Maybe it’s something your child said to you recently that made you feel ten feet tall, or the special dinner your wife surprised you with, or your dog’s latest crazy antic. I read somewhere that people who express thankfulness feel happier in general.

Tip #3: Stay positive. Not always easy, but sometimes just making yourself think positively can get your attitude back on track. Being positive, or at least detaching yourself from negativity and being more objective, can help you be a better decision maker.

Tip #4: Lighten up. Sometimes all it takes is listening to soothing music, or maybe listening to an old George Carlin record, or watching Bill Murray in Caddyshack, or reading some irreverent lawyer blogs like Bitter Lawyer or Lowering the Bar. I mean, how can you not laugh at articles like “Are Tattoos Replacing Lawyer Business Cards?” or “Legal Dare #1: Use Wingdings in a Letter” (both from Bitter Lawyer).

Tip #5: Shake your money-maker. Or more simply put: Exercise. I stole this one from attorney Erin Curren’s article “Finding Bliss at the Bar: How to Be a Happy Lawyer” which has far more tips and information than I have here, like how not to let depressing statistics about the legal professional get to you (my suggestion is to not read them in the first place), common traits of happy lawyers and more.

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com), or Bitter Lawyer or Lowering the Bar (two of my favorites that I listed in the above article), to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

Latest posts by Kaufman (see all)

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Talking to Older Drivers About Their Abilities and Safety

I recently handled a case for an older gentleman who had caused a car accident while driving. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it had made him realize that maybe it was time to stop driving and start taking alternate modes of transportation. A constructive decision on his part, although it’s not always the older driver who first reaches this realization.

Be respectful when broaching safe driving concerns with the elderly

Years ago, when my grandmother started having problems driving, it was other family members, not her, who first noticed she was having difficulties. Started with a pattern of scratches and dents on her car, followed by her mentioning how she was getting lost more often on streets she used to know so well. That’s when we decided it was time to have a family chat with Grams about her driving, which we wanted to do with respect as she had been fiercely independent all her life.  

If you’re concerned about an older driver in your family, I’ll review some warning signs of unsafe driving, followed by tips for handling “the talk.” Remember, it’s not only for their safety, but also for others.

Indicators of Unsafe Driving

These might have been occurring gradually over time, or perhaps they came about suddenly due to illness or medication:

  • Is he/she experiencing eyesight problems, such as difficulty seeing at night, blurred vision or not seeing signs or lights until they are close?
  • Any hearing problems, such as not hearing another car’s horn honking or an approaching ambulance?
  • Is there a pattern of getting lost or missing streets or exits that the person has commonly used?
  • An increased number of dents and scrapes on the car? Have there been recent traffic tickets or warnings?
  • Erratic driving due to the older person getting more easily frustrated, confused or overwhelmed while driving?
  • Is he/she forgetting how to do basic tasks, such as working the turn signals, windshield wipers, braking in time for a stop sign or red light?

Tips for Discussing Your Concerns

As I mentioned above, make it a priority to be respectful. It’s possible your older relative may actually be relieved that the topic is being brought up, but it could also be that he/she feels that their independence is being threatened. Below are ideas for handling the discussion:

  • If possible, include other family members or close friends. Or perhaps have the discussion with a more objective third party, such as the older person’s physician.
  • If feasible, discuss a gradual transition. Dramatic changes in life can be upsetting no matter how young or old we are, so consider a transition as long as safe driving isn’t an issue. For example, perhaps the older person stops driving on freeways or driving at night.
  • Be prepared with facts. Rather than make a sweeping statement such as, “You’re getting too old to drive,” instead refer to incidences that have occurred, such as, “You’ve mentioned recently that you’ve been getting lost more while you’re driving,” or “I’ve noticed several times recently that you’re driving slowly, noticeably below the speed limit.”  
  • Discuss the positive aspects of not driving. For example, saving money on gas, car maintenance, and so forth; less stress driving in traffic; increasing one’s social circle through shared rides; and likely a happier, slower pace of life without a car.
  • Also be prepared with transportation alternatives. Let the older person know if you or other family members can help with driving him/her places. If not, research ahead of time other transportation — some cities have senior citizen organizations that offer transportation services, or some cities offer shuttle services, and so forth. For those who use wheelchairs, there are special, motorized chairs that a person can use for short trips to the store, a friend’s house, etc.

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com) to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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What To Do When Confronted with a DUI Checkpoint

In 1990 some Michigan motorists challenged the constitutionality of a highway sobriety checkpoint where Michigan State Police had pulled over vehicles whose drivers were thought to be under the influence of an intoxicant, and asked them to perform field sobriety tests. The United States Supreme Court determined that the DUI checkpoint did not create an intrusion on citizens’ privacy under the Fourth Amendment [Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 110 S.Ct. 2481 (1990)].

Avoiding the DUI Checkpoint

Chief Justice Rehnquist, who wrote the opinion for the majority, reasoned, among other things, that a short delay was minimally intrusive on motorists’ rights, especially as motorists could turn off the road upon seeing the checkpoint or make U-turns so as not to pass through it

Checking Driver’s Licenses/Registrations

Police do not have the right to check driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations unless the stop is for a violation, or if the police suspect illegal conduct (such as signs of intoxication). 

Consenting to a Search

Officers may search a vehicle without the driver’s consent when police:

  • Have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or the fruits or instrumentalities of a crime (such as an open bottle of booze in the vehicle).
  • Have placed the driver under arrest.
  • Observe, from where they stand outside the vehicle, illegal articles within the vehicle that are in plain view.

Cooperating with the Police

When citizens pass through a DUI checkpoint, they should be cooperative. For example, if a driver refuses to roll down

Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary

his/her window, that might raise a police officer’s suspicion and the driver could be asked to pull to the side of the road.

People may, however, refuse to answer a police officer’s questions — however, it’s in the driver’s best interest to respond politely, for example:

  • “Officer, please understand that I refuse to talk to you until I consult with my attorney. I also refuse to consent to any search of my vehicle, as well as my person and effects. I wish to immediately be allowed the reasonable opportunity to obtain the advice of my attorney by telephone.”
  • “If I am under arrest, I wish to exercise my right to silence until my attorney is present.”
  • “If I am not under arrest, and I am free to leave, please tell me immediately so that I may go about my business.”

Refusing to Perform a Field Sobriety Test

A driver may refuse to perform field sobriety tests as they are voluntary, although law enforcement doesn’t emphasize this fact (or they may not even mention it). However, an officer may still arrest the driver if the officer has probable cause. Keep in mind that performing field sobriety tests may possibly give the police more evidence of intoxication.

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com) to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

Latest posts by Kaufman (see all)

 

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